Baylor-TCU Preview

BY foxsports • November 24, 2015

(AP) - While needing some help and probably about to use its third starting quarterback, No. 7 Baylor still has a chance to win its third consecutive Big 12 title.

A victory over previously undefeated Oklahoma State kept the Bears (9-1, 6-1) in the Big 12 race, and depending on the outcome of other games around the nation, maybe still in position for a playoff spot.

''We do like the fact that it's late in the season, and we're still in the hunts - with an s,'' coach Art Briles said Monday. ''We know it's hard for everybody to look at you and you to deliver week after week after week. ... Of course, we haven't done anything yet and haven't finished. But at least up to this point, we're still standing pretty solid.''

The Bears first have to win Friday night at No. 15 TCU (9-2, 6-2), when sophomore Chris Johnson likely gets his first career start for banged-up Baylor after throwing two touchdowns in relief of injured freshman starter Jarrett Stidham in a 45-35 win at Oklahoma State last Saturday.

Since a tiebreaker will be used and no more co-champions are declared in the Big 12, Baylor could become the champ again by winning its last two games - against TCU, then Dec. 5 at home against Texas - and if No. 9 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) wins Saturday night at home over No. 5 Oklahoma (10-1, 7-1), the team that gave Baylor its only loss less than two weeks ago.

''After that OU game, we felt a lot of people were writing us off as a team and a contender,'' senior linebacker and leading tackler Grant Campbell said. ''We wanted to prove people wrong this past week taking down an undefeated team in Stillwater. Our goals have not changed.''

Stidham was already dealing with a sore back before the Oklahoma State game. He banged his throwing (right) hand early, then right before halftime had his leg rolled up on in what was initially described as an ankle injury.

Briles said Monday that it was more an issue of the bone in his lower leg and termed Stidham as ''very questionable.'' The coach also said he was uncertain about Big 12 rushing leader Shock Linwood because of a knee and ankle issue.

Stidham has started Baylor's three games since junior Seth Russell, then the top-rated FBS passer, got hurt Oct. 24 and had season-ending neck surgery.

Johnson, who had been working as a receiver since before the season, was then moved back to quarterback to prepare as Stidham's backup. Johnson was 5 of 10 for 138 yards and the two TDs against Oklahoma State, even though his practice reps before that had been with the second-teamers and not the regular starters.

Briles said the Bears were starting the week preparing for Johnson to start Friday, and that they had options for backups.

''It's an opportunity to get more in-sync with those guys,'' Johnson said. ''It's a little different having to just jump in there in the middle of a game with those guys without having practiced with them much. Getting some time with them will help out a lot."

After Stidham was an early enrollee in January, went through spring drills and earned the backup role, Johnson was moved to receiver late in preseason practice. Johnson completed his only four passes for 45 yards last season, and has three catches for 37 yards this year.

''He's extremely confident. He has great ability out there,'' said left tackle Spencer Drango, named a finalist for the Outland Trophy on Tuesday. ''It feels like we've had the same quarterback (each week) since we started.''

TCU won't repeat as Big 12 champion, its dual-threat quarterback is still hopping around on a sore ankle and the starting senior center and star receiver are out.

Still, all is not lost for the Horned Frogs.

TCU almost pulled off a comeback at Oklahoma last week without Trevone Boykin, Joey Hunt and Josh Doctson. All are seniors the Frogs are going to be without after this season.

''I think our kids found out that ... when we're done and Trevone graduates, we were able to move the football against a really good football team,'' coach Gary Patterson said. ''Some of the guys we expect to be our future guys that make plays, stepped up.''

Boykin is still questionable after returning to practice this week. Once considered by some to be the Heisman Trophy front-runner, and still the national leader with 402 total yards per game, Boykin hasn't played since turning his right ankle awkwardly in the first half Nov. 14 against Kansas.

''He's a special cat. He'll be the guy who makes that call,'' Patterson said.

Boykin was named Tuesday as one of the three finalists for the Davey O'Brien Award that goes to the nation's top quarterback. Doctson is among three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award that goes to the top receiver.

Sophomore center Austin Schlottman made his first career start in the 30-29 loss at Oklahoma in place of injured four-year starter Hunt, and sophomore tackle Matt Pryor has started the last three games because of injuries.

Emanuel Porter, a sophomore receiver who missed five games, had a 14-yard TD catch in the final minute before TCU missed a 2-point conversion attempt. Freshman returner Kavonte Turpin had an 86-yard scoring catch earlier in the fourth quarter.

''It just gives you hope that next year, they know what this feels like,'' said junior defensive end Josh Carraway, who has a team-high seven sacks. ''They know what it feels like to play in a big game.''

Doctson set TCU's single-season records with 79 catches, and led the nation with 1,337 yards and 14 touchdowns before being ruled out of the last two regular-season games. He injured his left wrist Nov. 7, tried to play briefly in the Kansas game and then was ruled out.

There have been 16 players who have made their first career starts for the TCU defense.

''A lot of our stuff happened on defense. It happened early, so we've grown up and we've gotten better playing together, but they handled it so well,'' Patterson said. ''Defensively we've been able to do it without a bunch of people. Offensively, they went into a little shock at the Kansas game.''


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